Crashes Happen and the Cloud Can Save You - Like It Did Me

This month, my wonderful new laptop with all its fancy bells and whistles along with the very latest in security software was attacked by a creepy little horrid virus that Shall Be Unnamed.

This evildoer was crafty and circumvented all my protections - even to the point where it would successfully reinfect my machine after I had jumped through all the hoops to get things cleaned up.

You know the drill. You can imagine the time involved here.

Everything is better now, and I'm back on my regular work schedule. The thing that I want to share - now that the danger has passed and I'm out of Panic Mode - is a lesson learned: it was wise to have everything backed up to a remote location. Very wise.

It was also very wise not to have email stored on the hard drive. (Well, copies were, but you get the idea.)

I had become arrogant, having escaped any kind of computer crash for several years. I've realized that in today's world it really is only a matter of time before you'll get zapped. Plan to be attacked now, and you'll be glad you did.

FYI - my security software? Norton.


LinkedIn, Yes; Facebook, No - TechRepublic's Toni Bowers Casts a Vote

I don't like Facebook and I don't use Facebook.  I don't recommend Facebook to friends or clients, and if you want to go into all the reasons why, then write me and I'll jump up on my soapbox and explain.

I'm not alone in this.  Just Google "I hate Facebook" and surf for awhile.

Or don't.  Opt for this: over at TechRepublic today, Toni Bowers writes a nice, short article on her take on this issue in "LinkedIn is Facebook's mature older sibling."

And have a great weekend.


IE 10 is Coming. And I Just Downloaded IE9 (With Its Kinks)

This past week, I upgraded to Internet Explorer 9.  Then, almost immediately thereafter, ZDNET reported that Microsoft was sending out IE9 as a Windows Update, so I wasn't exactly ahead of the crowd here.  Still, I was somewhat techno-proud.  You know what I mean.

Which, of course, meant that the inevitable time-eating kinks would pop up.  This time, I discovered that IE9 had a problem with secure sites.  I had to use Firefox to enter various client blogs and things to edit, optimize, fiddle, etc.  Annoying.  Fixable.

Today, I learn that IE9 is so shortlived that we're already being told to get ready for Internet Explorer 10.  That's right.  Ten. It's only been four weeks, Microsoft!  Four weeks!

PCMag has all the details, along with screenshots from Microsoft describing how really and truly great IE10 is going to be. 

Now, I admit:  IE9, so far, is nicer than IE8 (or 7, or 6, or whatever).  (The experts agree.) I particularly like the increase in space for me.  I just hate the Kink Hurdle. 

According to PCMag, it's gonna be a little bit of time before I have to worry about IE10 - but geez.  They could have waited a little bit before making this big announcement.

It's like going out and buying your swanky new car, and then two weeks later the car maker unveils that your make and model will have a whole new design next year.  You feel so old news.



Getting Stuff Done: Learning Your Distractions and Taking Control of Them

This isn't news, but I've discovered that working as a writer is so very different from working as a lawyer.  For example:
  • The deadlines are much more self-imposed (e.g, daily word count).  
  • It's a solitary endeavor  (no high heels. Heck, no shoes ...).
  • I can work most any place (home, Starbucks, a park bench).
Which means that very quickly, I've learned how much willpower I've really got -- and I've discovered powerful, subtle temptations that regularly keep me from meeting my word count.  The fridge, the TV: sure - but it's much more than that.  It's a pattern of distractions that is undermining me. 

Psychologists Study Willpower.  Duh.

I went surfing around the web, and discovered psychologists study willpower.  Who knew, right?  Which is wonderful:  I want to know what they've found, and incorporate it into my daily routine. 

Is there a secret weapon against procrastination?  Against stopping to watch TV and get a snack every afternoon, at the exact same time?  That @#$#$@#$ Ina Garten show is on every weekday afternoon at four.  Damn her.

Metcalfe and Mischel Study - 1999 (pdf here)

One thing I found was a study done in 1999 [1] that divides willpower into two motivations: hot and cold.  Hot motivators are fueled by fear and anxiety (which brings back memories of impending filing deadlines from my lawyer days) as well as good stuff.  Hot motivation is controlled by outside stimuli that spark your reaction.  The study labels hot motivation as the "go" system. 

I think that I have a lot of hot motivation.  This is not sexy at all. 

Cold motivators are different.  Cold motivation is the "know" system in the study's vernacular.  It's your willpower, baby. 

Fortunately, I can look back over my past successes and comfort myself that I apparently have quite a bit of cold motivation, too.  Whew. 

The Psychology Behind Distractions

To get the job done, I can't fall prey to all the distractions that tempt me away from my task at hand.  As I write this post, I'm fighting a war against distractions.  External and internal, they've been categorized. 

The neighbor's dog barking is external.  The thought of making a fresh pot of tea now rather than later is internal. An image of the Veggie Sub on Flatbread from Subway floats through my mind.  These can all veer me off my path - no!!!  I have to ignore them, and keep typing.

In their study, Metcalfe and Mischel describe what I'm doing right now as exercising my willpower.  Wo Nellie.  Good for me. 

Willpower, Self-Control: What It Is

Of course, they describe this in their psychological way:  what I'm doing is exercising my ability to inhibit my impulsive behavior in order to fulfill my commitment to myself, which right now is to get this post written, finalized, and published. 

In the long-term, that willpower might be labelled "self-control."  In the Bible, self-control is a gift given to us by God [2].  In the study, they delve into self-control (over the long haul) as having three characteristics:
  • it's mental and intellectual (not emotional);
  • you have more as you age, hopefully - self-control is a sign of maturity (babies don't have much if any of this); and 
  • (warning Will Robinson!) self-control is vulnerable to stress.  

Stress is Kryptonite to Self-Control

So far, so good.  All of this makes sense to me.  I'm still looking for information that I can use as tools to help me get all my stuff done.  I found some.

1.  Planning is Very, Very Important

They tell us that for self-control to be powerful, you have to rely upon the tools of planning as well as memory, which work together to "...keep the goals in mind while pursuing them and monitoring progress along the route."  So that old adage, "those who fail to plan, plan to fail," appears to have a scientific support, right?

For me, this means that I need to get a better handle not just on my daily to-do list, but on my one-year plan, five-year plan, even ten-year plan.  It will help me get the things done today that I need to do. 

It's true:  when I don't have my task list at my side, I am easily distracted.  It's just sad how easily I'm distracted, in fact -- and I won't even admit to the ridiculous things that have successfully tempted me away from my keyboard.  My purchase history at QVC speaks for itself. 

2.  Actions that Reduce Stress Are Also Valuable

The study also recognizes that stress can sneak in and weaken your resolve.  It's easier for those hot motivators to win if you're weak.  No news there.  So, it comes back to avoiding stress.  Really?  Grrrr. 

Find some stress reduction techniques that work, they suggest.  Plan for stress and be ready to beat it.  This I can do. 

For me, walking the dogs comes to mind immediately.  Even a short walk is good -- gets me out and moving for a bit and provides the added stress reduction of watching how happy the pups are to do this.  There's nothing so fun as seeing your dog jump up five feet in the air at the question "wanna go for a walk?" -- never gets old.

3.  Hooray!! Rewards!!! 

Get this: the researchers not only suggest rewards, they've got two kinds.  I'm really pumped now.  There are the Large Late Rewards (LLRs) and the Small Early Rewards (SERs).  I cannot tell you how much I love this.  However, there's bad news with the good news:  it appears that a small reward now may turn into a distraction.  You gotta be careful about giving yourself rewards.

For me, I find that giving myself little rewards when tasks are done (particularly ones that I despise) seems juvenile, but it works for me.  So sue me, I'm immature in my mature assertion of self-control.  Sometimes they are things, sometimes they are things I get to do. 

The Large Late Rewards are the Big Deals.  You get that article published, for example.  The researchers report that those should have big treats to go with them, or you'll get waylaid by distractions -- you'll find a reward for yourself in television, ice cream, tequilla, something ... if you don't consciously acknowledge your major achievement. 

What I'm Taking From This -- Plans and Rewards

Okey dokey.  From this, I'm going to stop and take the time to go over my business plan, my marketing plan, etc. as well as set up a list of real rewards, tied to goals being met.  Much more formal than my usual approach, but this makes sense to me.  (Businesses do this, too: bonuses, profit sharing, etc., and I may incorporate some of their tactics to my writing world.)  And after I get this all done, I'm going to go get a Frap ... as my reward.

[1] Metcalfe, J., & Mischel, W. (1999). A hot/cool system analysis of delay of gratification: Dynamics of willpower. Psychological Review, 106, 3-19.
[2] 2 Timothy 1:7 ESV ("...for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.")


Follow the Lawsuits Being Filed Against Web Sites, Bloggers for Copyright Infringement by Nevada's Righthaven

I've posted in the past about Righthaven, and how they are building up quite a business by buying copyrights and then suing (without notice or cease and desist letters) for violations of federal copyright laws.  Go here to read about them.

Recently, I discovered a website that is tracking Righthaven's activitiesRighthavenLawsuits is not affiliated in any way with the company that has become a professional plaintiff.  Here, from the RighthavenLawsuits site:

This website is dedicated to gathering together and posting for Righthaven Defendants and the public information about Righthaven LLC -- the Las Vegas “technology company”that has been filing copyright infringement lawsuits in the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada (and South Carolina and Colorado) against numerous unsuspecting website owners (almost always without notice) for copyright infringement of news articles originally published in the Las Vegas Review Journal (and Denver Post) and purportedly assigned to Righthaven (sample assignment here) which subsequently registers the copyright to such articles with the U.S. Copyright Office in order to then file suit in federal court.

This web site appears to be current and comprehensive.  Interesting to me: since my post in July 2010, the company has expanded its activity into South Carolina and Colorado.  What will happen next?  Will Righthaven's tenticles creep into other states - or will other companies pop up in these other states as direct competitors to Righthaven?  Money talks, you know.